It was a nightmare scenario. A truck carrying hazardous materials struck a bus in Carson City, Nevada. The bus slammed into an SUV carrying a young family and the SUV plowed into an office building. Workers in the building's top floors were cut off. A pregnant woman went into labor, a utilities worker working nearby was trapped underground and scores of injured, many traumatically, pleaded for help.
It was a nightmare scenario—but thankfully, it wasn't real.
The multi-casualty incident was a simulation marking the culmination of an intense week of training at Barrick's recent Global Mine Rescue Summit in Reno and Carson City. More than 60 safety and rescue workers from Barrick mines around the world participated. They spent the first several days training in different emergency response situations, including a structural collapse, search and extraction, vehicle extrications, hazmat response, high-angle rope rescue and firefighting.
On the fourth day, they put their skills to the test in the multi-casualty scenario. Vehicles from a local salvage yard were used to create a realistic scene. Volunteers role-played the injured. Make-up was used to simulate puncture wounds and burns. Carson Fire Station 52, where the multi-casualty incident training took place, even has a six-story building which allowed teams to perform high-angle rope rescues.
"An incident like this is the last thing we ever want to see, but we believe it's better to be prepared," says Barrick Vice President of Safety and Health, Craig Ross. "Barrick, in supporting this event, once again underscored its full commitment to the highest level of emergency readiness."
This was Barrick's third Global Mine Rescue Summit, Ross says, noting that he's unaware of any other mining company that has supported just one event of this scale, let alone three. Mine rescue workers volunteer for the job in addition to their regular duties, Ross adds. Many spend considerable time off hours raising their skills to professional level standards. The summit was an opportunity to further enhance their skills and for Barrick to let its mine rescue workers know how much their commitment is appreciated. Ross credited Barrick Chief Operating Officer Richard Williams for championing the event.
"When Richard met with our mine rescue people, saw their commitment and heard we hadn't held a global summit since 2011, he told me to do it," he says.
During the event, the teams found time to help refurbish a school in Reno. In just several hours, crews repaired fencing, landscaped and refreshed courtyard areas, cleaned and painted the bleachers and tennis court areas and helped with several other projects to restore the Vaughn Middle School.
"Our school is 60 years old and has been in great need of repairs and beautification," the school's Principal, Victoria Roybal, said in a statement. "This gift of time, resources, and labor was a giant step towards our goal of making our learning environment match the high level of instruction our teachers and staff provide our scholars."
The Global Mine Rescue Summit took place from September 12-16 and was organized by the Cortez mine. Cortez's Kevin Jessop, General Supervisor, Industrial Hygiene & Emergency Response, and Senior Emergency Response Coordinators Rich Maier and Jeff Freeman led the effort. "We were honored to be selected as event coordinators," Jessop says. "The training was incredible and we saw immense team building. Every rescuer will take new knowledge back to their sites to help us move one step closer to our goal of being best in class for emergency response globally."
On the final day of training, the teams participated in night firefighting exercises. Conditions mirroring industrial fires, petroleum fires and car fires were created. As the training began, balls of fire, some 30 to 40 feet high, illuminated the sky on a full-moon night. "I love this," says Karl Overing, Senior Specialist, Emergency Response at the Porgera mine in Papua New Guinea, after helping his team hose down a car fire. "But I also respect it. Fighting a fire is serious business."
Matt Gili, General Manager of Cortez, attended the exercise, as did Goldstrike General Manager Bill MacNevin and Turquoise Ridge General Manager Nigel Bain. Gili and MacNevin took turns extinguishing a fire. "That was exhilarating," Gili says afterwards. "Knowing you're around these trained people was comforting, but that was a big fire."
Barrick mines are typically located hundreds of kilometers from large cities, so their rescue teams are often the only readily available emergency services in the area, Freeman says. "We're our own little city and we have a moral responsibility to make sure we take care of our communities."
That desire to help is ever present. On the day of the night firefighting exercises, several summit participants were at a gas station when they noticed a man, clearly in distress, trying to tape an injured hand. The team offered to help and their offer was gratefully accepted. They taped the man's hand and advised him to go to the hospital as his hand may have been broken. "Our people don't talk about this type of thing too much, but it happens all the time," Maier says.
For Gabriel Lopez, a mechanic at Cortez, the summit was a great opportunity to connect with colleagues from Latin America. "It was awesome," he says. "I learned a lot from them. They don't have (safety and rescue) courses like we have. They study books, watch videos and practice and practice and practice. I just wish the rest of the team spoke Spanish so they could fully appreciate the knowledge these guys have."
The summit concluded with a celebration of team and individual accomplishments at a closing banquet and awards presentation. Matt Gili closed the event. "From my standpoint, it was wonderful to see the camaraderie, wonderful to see the teamwork. Thank you for being who you are. Thank you for being one Barrick."